Working smoothly together on May 11, 2020, health minister Adrian Dix, B.C. Liberal health critic Norm Letnick, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and sign language interpreter Nigel Howard. (B.C. government video)

Working smoothly together on May 11, 2020, health minister Adrian Dix, B.C. Liberal health critic Norm Letnick, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and sign language interpreter Nigel Howard. (B.C. government video)

B.C. VOTES 2020

COVID-19 co-operation a casualty of B.C.’s pandemic election

NDP’s Horgan emphasizes senior care spending, B.C. Liberal Wilkinson calls for ‘wartime economy’

For months, B.C. was a model of non-partisan coronavirus co-operation, with Premier John Horgan yielding the microphone to Dr. Bonnie Henry, even as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and other premiers were on TV daily.

MLAs in the B.C. legislature did their grim duty quickly and unanimously in March, borrowing $5 billion and leaving it to the NDP minority government to disperse it as the province’s economic health rapidly declined. NDP health minister Adrian Dix frequently worked with B.C. Liberal critic Norm Letnick on the pandemic, as well as reform of medical professions and other public needs.

Then came the summer-long delay in tourism and small business relief, held back by Horgan until days before the election call. The delay means its modest assistance to the hardest-hit businesses would not arrive until 2021. That and the surprise timing of the election itself have been Horgan’s biggest political problems as he tries to gain a majority in the pandemic.

B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson had been warning of a snap election since August. When it came, his response was an echo of the 2001 party under Gordon Campbell, which won a huge majority and cut personal income taxes 25 per cent. Wilkinson wants to jump-start business recovery and consumer spending with a one-year suspension of the provincial sales tax, and a reduced rate the next year that would put the province billions further in debt.

“This is like a wartime economy where a quarter of businesses might close in a year,” Wilkinson said in the leaders’ TV debate Oct. 13.

RELATED: Tourism business aid ‘happening now, dude,’ Horgan insists

RELATED: Green leader pushes Horgan on climate, Wilkinson on debt

RELATED: Parties battle over tax promises to recover from COVID-19

Horgan responded to the sales tax cut with a promise to send out another round of payments of up to $1,000 to all but the highest-earning families and $500 to individuals, whether they have lost income or not. Horgan acknowledged later the promised cash payments were added to the platform late, as a direct response to Wilkinson’s PST cut proposal.

In debates and campaign stops, Horgan has emphasized Dix’s work in upgrading the understaffed seniors’ long-term care network. His frequent criticism of the B.C. Liberals refers to an NDP law that stopped “contract flipping” by care home owners to renegotiate union contracts, mostly with the Hospital Employees’ Union. Horgan regularly refers to 10,000 mainly female care aides “fired” (and mostly rehired) under the B.C. Liberals. The pandemic has prompted the NDP to raise care aide wages to union levels and eliminate multi-site work, earning national praise for it.

B.C. Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau’s platform described the COVID-19 pandemic as an opportunity to move toward a guaranteed income, and broader early childhood education and non-profit rental housing. Its small business recovery plan includes the same size fund as the NDP crisis grants, $300 million, put toward subsidizing business rents.

B.C. Liberal platform highlights:

• In the first 60 days, eliminate PST for a year, start review of regulations and ban elections during states of emergency

• implement province-wide framework for hybrid and online learning options and promote distance learning programs

• Set up a pandemic response committee with all party participation, and an independent review of senior care homes’ response to COVID-19

B.C. NDP platform highlights:

• The NDP platform promises to make its restaurant relief measures permanent, including beer, wine and liquor at wholesale prices, liquor delivery with takeout, and expanded patios

• A second round of COVID-19 emergency payments, up to $1,000 per family or $500 per single person

• “Fast-track” improvements to online and remote learning in B.C. schools

B.C. Greens platform highlights:

• keep school district funding at current levels even as enrolment declines due to COVID-19

• $24 million in new funding for school counsellors to support student mental health

• $300 million to cover up to 25 per cent of rental costs for small business for six months


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

BC politicsBC Votes 2020

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland stands during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Monday, Sept. 28, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
In this week’s column, Ranch Musings columnist David Zirnhelt shares information about a new company called B.C. Beef Producers Inc. that may interest local beef producers. (Lindsay Chung Photo - Quesnel Cariboo Observer)
RANCH MUSINGS: A regional brand of beef

David Zirnhelt writes about B.C. Beef Producers Inc., a new producer-owned company near Kamloops

Even masked curling for adults will not be allowed under new public health orders. (Cassidy Dankochik Photo - Quesnel Cariboo Observer)
New sport rules give out red cards to Quesnel leagues and clubs

New public orders even have implications on youth sports in the province

Dan Campbell was diagnosed with MS a few years ago. Friend and neighbour Hillary Shearing has set up a GoFundMe page to raise money so that Dan and his wife, Casey, can retrofit their house to improve Dan’s mobility. (Submitted Photo)
Community steps up to help Quesnel couple battling MS diagnosis through online fundraiser

A GoFundMe campaign has begun to help cover Dan and Casey Campbell’s costs to renovate their home

This map shows the location of Barkerville Gold Mines (BGM) Ltd.’s QR Mill and Bonanza Ledge Mine and proposed Cariboo Gold Project mine site near Wells, as well as the trucking route to take ore from the Cariboo Gold Project to the QR Mill. BGM announced Thursday, Dec. 3 that two of its contract employees tested positive for COVID-19 Dec. 2 as they arrived at the Wells site to begin their work rotation. (Photo courtesy of BGM)
Two contract employees at Wells mine site test positive for COVID-19

Barkerville Gold Mines says the workers have had no known interaction with the community of Wells

A snow moon rises over Mt. Cheam in Chilliwack on Feb. 8, 2020. Friday, Dec. 11, 2020 is Mountain Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Dec. 6 to 12

Mountain Day, Dewey Decimal System Day and Lard Day are all coming up this week

Demonstrators, organized by the Public Fishery Alliance, outside the downtown Vancouver offices of Fisheries and Oceans Canada July 6 demand the marking of all hatchery chinook to allow for a sustainable public fishery while wild stocks recover. (Public Fishery Alliance Facebook photo)
Angry B.C. anglers see petition tabled in House of Commons

Salmon fishers demand better access to the healthy stocks in the public fishery

(Hotel Zed/Flytographer)
B.C. hotel grants couple 18 years of free stays after making baby on Valentines Day

Hotel Zed has announced a Kelowna couple has received free Valentines Day stays for next 18 years

Farmers raise slogans during a protest on a highway at the Delhi-Haryana state border, India, Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau rejected the diplomatic scolding Canada’s envoy to India received on Friday for his recent comments in support of protesting Indian farmers. Tens of thousands of farmers have descended upon the borders of New Delhi to protest new farming laws that they say will open them to corporate exploitation. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Manish Swarup
Trudeau brushes off India’s criticism for standing with farmers in anti-Modi protests

The High Commission of India in Ottawa had no comment when contacted Friday

Montreal Alouettes’ Michael Sam is set to make his pro football debut as he warms up before the first half of a CFL game against the Ottawa Redblacks in Ottawa on Friday, Aug. 7, 2015. Sam became the first publicly gay player to be drafted in the NFL. He signed with the Montreal Alouettes after being released by St. Louis, but abruptly left after playing one game. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Study finds Canada a ‘laggard’ on homophobia in sports

Among females, 44 per cent of Canadians who’ve come out to teammates reported being victimized

Nurse Kath Olmstead prepares a shot as the world’s biggest study of a possible COVID-19 vaccine, developed by the National Institutes of Health and Moderna Inc., gets underway Monday, July 27, 2020, in Binghamton, N.Y. U.S. biotech firm Moderna says its vaccine is showing signs of producing lasting immunity to COVID-19, and that it will have as many as many as 125 million doses available by the end of March. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Hans Pennink
Canada orders more COVID vaccines, refines advice on first doses as cases reach 400K

Canada recorded its 300,000th case of COVID-19 on Nov. 16

Apartments are seen lit up in downtown Vancouver as people are encouraged to stay home during the global COVID-19 pandemic on Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. British Columbia’s deputy provincial health officer says provincewide data show the most important area B.C. must tackle in its response to the COVID-19 pandemic is health inequity. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marissa Tiel
Age, income among top factors affecting well-being during pandemic, B.C. survey shows

Among respondents earning $20,000 a year or less, more than 41 per cent reported concern about food insecurity

Information about the number of COVID-19 cases in Abbotsford and other municipalities poses a danger to the public, the Provincial Health Services Authority says. (Photo: Tyler Olsen/Abbotsford News)
More city-level COVID-19 data would jeopardize public health, B.C. provincial health agency says

Agency refuses to release weekly COVID-19 case counts, citing privacy and public health concerns

Carmen Robinson was last seen getting off a bus in View Royal the evening of Dec. 8, 1973. Her case remains unsolved 47 years later. (Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers)
Gone cold: Fate of B.C. teen remains a mystery, 47 years after her disappearance

Carmen Robinson, 17, was last seen exiting a bus near Victoria in December 1973

Most Read